I have seen quite a few posts on why personal learning networks (PLNs) are so important, such as this one with a ton of resources from David Kelly. I will be honest, up until about 4 years ago I had never heard of a PLN. I was a latecomer to Twitter and going to conferences, really, to doing the things that help grow a PLN. It was actually Devlearn 2011 (my first industry conference) that kicked off my desire to build a PLN.
Expanding the PLN
I will start this out by saying I am a bit of an introvert. I find it hard to just walk up to people at a conference and start a conversation. I am what you would call a little socially awkward. I found Twitter chats to be a great way, for me, to start interacting with people. I started after that first conference in 2011 and by the time I went back the next year, I already knew a few people that could talk to at the conference. That is when things really took off. Once those initial connections are made, the people you meet from there can expand very quickly. By the time I left the 2012 DevLearn conference my network had started.
Why is this important?
My PLN has provided me with opportunities I never could have imagined. I have had the opportunity to speak at other conferences. I have been able to write some articles (a little shameless self promotion, you can check out my TD at Work here). I have had the opportunity to attend some un-conferences that have been life-changing endeavors. Business opportunities that have presented themselves to help reach a personal goal (look for a future post on that). The most important thing though is the people. I have met so many great people along the way. People that I can send a note to for some feedback on ideas. People that I follow just to see what they do next. People that I am proud to call my friends, with whom the relationship goes well beyond just a typical business acquaintance.
Why am I writing this?
I am hoping that someone that is walking around a conference for the first time seeing the groups of people hanging out together in the hallways, having dinner together, or drinks after the day is done will know that they can build that network. Find the Twitter chats, if you have more courage than me, walk up and say hi. Find the presenter that you admired from earlier in the day and approach them. Take the time to build your PLN, speaking from the experience of a socially awkward introvert, it will pay big dividends for your future.